Because they pair catchy tunes with uniquely profound and usually witty lyrics, Relient K has been one of my favorite bands since I was 13.
Even though I own almost all their albums, the March 31 performance in Biola University’s gymnasium was my first Relient K show. Relient K consistently creates songs that are both easily “sing-along-able” and resonate with thick layers of meaning–since I get a lot out of their music, I expected a lot out of their show.
The show began a little after seven, and the stage design was nothing unusual since we were in a gym. The first opening band, Workday Release, included Goodbye Luna frontman and friend of mine Richard Schmieg on the piano. I could not hear Schmieg very well since the vocals overpowered him, but overall the band’s songs were pleasant, slow, and well-done. We Shot the Moon was the second opening band.
Finally, Relient K burst on stage in a frenzy and opened with “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been” from their 2004 Mmhmm album.
Since Relient K has so many albums, I worried about how the band was going to balance the old and new. Yet the set list was well-rounded with 17 songs. The band played five songs from Mmhmm, five from Forget and Not Slow Down, and one to two songs from the rest of their albums.
It shouldn’t surprise any Relient K fan that the band performed “Sadie Hawkins Dance.” The song was eighth in the set list and it might have fit better later on, but otherwise the order worked well and transitions were smooth. The band performed one cover, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” from their Is for Karaoke album.
Musically, the band performed really well. Bassist John Warner made a couple of slip-ups on “Must’ve Done Something Right,” but they were barely noticeable. Guitarist Jon Schneck’s glockenspiel playing added a dreamy feel to the end of “Which to Bury, Us or the Hatchet?” and lead singer Matt Thiessen’s voice was controlled, neither strained nor nasally.
The band did an excellent job of interacting with the crowd. At one point Thiessen threw chips into Schneck’s mouth, which the crowd enjoyed. Theissen displayed his fun sense of humor throughout the show.
I was impressed with the experience before the final song, but the ending was especially notable.
Thiessen explained to the crowd that his grandfather had passed away during the week. He said the closing song was based on both Thiessen’s grandfather’s and his father’s lives.
The closing song was “Deathbed,” and it is haunting enough on the Five Score album, but the band’s performance of it that night was particularly moving. The guitar, bass, and drums accented the chilling pre-chorus carried by keyboard and vocals: “I can smell the death on the sheets/covering me/I can’t believe this is the end” and the song culminated in Thiessen finishing the final part with just his keyboard and reverberating voice: “I am Love, I am Love, I am Love.”
Seize any and every opportunity you get to go to a Relient K show, because if it’s anything like the one I went to, you’ll be in for a treat.